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The Larapinta Challenge

27 July 2022, Impact of Our Work

Fresh hope springs from the world’s oldest river

Renowned as one of the best long-distance walking experiences in Australia, in May the Larapinta Trail became the site of an incredible fundraising effort that raised over $50,000 for children. 

The Larapinta Trail is a 223-kilometre walking trek that winds through the spectacular scenery of the Northern Territory’s West MacDonnell Ranges. It follows the Larapinta, also known as the Finke River, part of an ancient drainage system which once flowed into Lake Eyre.  

In the language of the Western Arrernte people, through whose land the river crosses, the name ‘Larrapinta’ means ‘salty river’. This is not just any salty river however, it’s the original. Dating back over 300 million years, the Larrapinta is the world’s oldest river. 

Despite its age, the Larrapinta is dotted with stunning waterholes and still fills with water during periods of heavy rain. For a week-long stretch in May 2022 however, the Larapinta became a source of hope and opportunity for children in need. 

Through the combined effort of individual fundraisers and GSK, a science-led global healthcare company, an adventurous group of Save the Children supporters walked a 90km-stretch of the trail to raise money for programs that provide life-saving support for children. 

They faced their share of challenges along the way. Not least of which was the harsh conditions and difficult walking terrain. “I did lots of training, but it was hard going from cold Melbourne to hot Larapinta,” said one participant.

For some participants, like David, embracing the conditions brought a new joy to the experience:

“Despite trekking between 12kms to 20kms each day in hot, cold or raining weather, hiking in silence amongst picturesque landscapes is surprisingly therapeutic and meditative… Going on the hike has deepened my appreciation and understanding of this country we get to call home and helped me realise the amazing work Save the Children are continuously doing for children across Australia. I loved every second of it.” 

The trekkers dancing their way through exhaustion.
Photo: Martha Kouts

The other major hurdle to overcome on the way to raising an astonishing $53,176 was time. This trip was three years in the making. The initial plans for the Save the Children Larapinta Challenge began in 2019. With plenty of support and enthusiasm, the team signed on for a 2020 start date and began their fundraising efforts.
Two years of delays due to COVID-19 were not enough to dampen the spirits of the team however, and in fact provided more opportunities to fundraise and have a greater impact for those in need.
At the end of it all, the trekkers agree that walking along the world’s oldest river system for a good cause was more than enough to overcome any challenge:

My trip to Larapinta with Save the Children was nothing short of life changing. It was a place beyond any definition of magic. I felt so completely present, grounded and humbled during our trek. To know that we were there supporting such a wonderful cause just makes the memories even more incredible.


A stunning sunrise from Mount Sonder.
Photo: Lauren Drewett

While doing something like trekking the Larapinta may seem daunting, there are so many smaller ways that you can make a difference. You could ask friends and family to sponsor you in running 5km every day or organise a morning tea at work. 

While finally making it onto the Larapinta trail was the highlight of this experience, raising funds knowing that I was making a difference to children’s lives was amazing. You don’t have to do something huge, simply organising an activity that you enjoy yourself and adding a personal touch makes fundraising so much more fun and rewarding!


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